The Hugo award deadline is right around the corner, so I’m running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. Today’s is Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.
Holy shit you guys, I have actually seen all of this year’s nominees. That’s a first, and that means there are two things to celebrate:
- Hollywood making decent SF/F movies in greater quantities, and
- My husband and I having enough disposable income to see said movies.
Yay for having money! So, let’s take a closer look at each nominee in turn.
It is so satisfying to know that Hollywood didn’t bungle this adaptation of Ted Chiang’s mind-bending novella “Story of Your Life”. I reviewed Arrival back in November when it opened in theatres, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed that much. However, I also suspect I had such a strong reaction to the movie because of the heightened emotional state (fear, regret, exhaustion) I was in when I saw it. This movie would not have had the same impact on me if it had been released in 2015, I think.
The only thing I have to add is that while this adaptation made changes to the story that some people disagree with, I think those changes make sense. Let’s look at some comments by Abigail Nussbaum in particular:
To someone familiar with the story, there is a hint early on in Arrival of its shift in priorities and premise. The film opens with a series of flashes to the relationship between linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and her daughter Hannah, culminating in Hannah’s death, in her early adulthood, from a disease. In the story, Hannah dies in a climbing accident. The change initially seems pointless–or perhaps yet another indication that Hollywood thinks cancer is inherently more dramatic than any other form of tragedy–and then troubling. In the story, the point of Hannah’s death being accidental is that it is easily preventable. Someone with knowledge of the future–as Louise will eventually become–could keep it from happening by saying a few words. The point of “Story of Your Life” is to explain why Louise doesn’t do this. Making Hannah’s death something that Louise can’t prevent seems, in the film’s early minutes, like an odd bit of point-missing.
I disagree with this. I think changing the way Hannah died was a practical decision by the moviemakers in order to achieve the desired narrative effect, rather than a ham-fisted attempt to inject the story with pathos.
To first-time viewers, the revelation is that all of the scenes involving Hannah are flash-forwards rather than flashbacks. To make that twist resonate to the audience, Louise (played by Amy Adams) must look the same in both the present-day narrative and the near future. If Hannah is an adult, then Louise needs to look visibly older on screen to avoid suspension of disbelief. But if the passage of time between the two periods is less than a decade, Louise looking substantively the same age is a lot more plausible – and thus it’s easier to set the audience off their guard.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us salute the first comic book movie to show pegging on-screen. Let us also salute the mental image of my Boomer-age aunt and uncle watching Deadpool in the theatre. Because I know that, had I watched it with them, being in their proximity during the on-screen sexytimes would have made me melt into my seat in embarrassment. I would probably have also had to explain everything to them afterwards because my aunt is the kind of person who didn’t understand The Matrix when she first saw it.
So yeah. Deadpool. Lotsa sex jokes. Lotsa gore. Lotsa fourth-wall breaking. Mucho potential inter-generational embarrassment that, thank god, was avoided.
You know what? I liked Ghostbusters, MRA-rage be damned. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, and I was never a big fan of the original 80s incarnation in the first place. But I am all for Kate MacKinnon’s performance. Let’s just fill the rest of this section up with Holtzmann GIFs, ok?
I reviewed Hidden Figures back in January. It’s a good movie with great performances. The only problem I have with it is that you can tell that the original story was altered to make it more Hollywood-friendly. I’ll just share the money quote here:
For example, when Mary is encouraged to become an engineer, she initially brushes her coworker’s words aside by saying that as a black woman, there’s no point in her trying. It’s impossible, she says. So what, he replies, I’m Jewish and my parents died in the Holocaust, yet we’re both here working on getting a man into space. Nothing is impossible! Considering that Mary’s interlocutor has less than a dozen more lines in the entire film after this, his dialogue is a bit on the nose; it’s clear that he’s here only to fulfill that particular beat of the script.
Other parts of the script are also predictable. Do we have a scene where Katherine gives rise to her frustration and in a cathartic burst of rage berates her boss because there’s no bathroom nearby she can use? Yes! Do we have a scene where said boss, chastened and enlightened, does something dramatic and symbolic by taking a crowbar to the “coloured ladies” bathroom sign as a way to desegregate the campus? Yes! Do we have a scene where Katherine has to prove her mathematical worth at the very last minute, with little time to spare, in order to make sure that John Glenn doesn’t die in space? Yes!
When I saw Rogue One in the theatre, I really wasn’t expecting the movie to go there. You know. The whole thing with “even though one of the major taglines of the movie is that rebellions need hope to survive, every single goddamned important character in this movie DIES.” I wasn’t expecting it to go there.
It’s not a perfect movie, and Max Gladstone wrote a really good piece about how they could have fixed Rogue One‘s script to make it better. But what I care about most is Chirrut and Baze. I also think that not casting Tatiana Maslany as the lead was a huge missed opportunity.
Stranger Things, Season One
I’ve mentioned previously how long series of things are overwhelming to me. So much stuff to catch up on. So the length of shows like Stranger Things is perfect. Eight episodes, one plot arc, mostly killer and very little filler.
I took a big break after episode 6, which finishes with Jonathan and Steve fighting, and Steve slut-shaming Nancy in public. The plot development there put a bad taste in my mouth. But episode 7 was amazing, because it’s the first time where everyone teams up. There are still some things I’m conflicted about – for some reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of the actress they chose to play Nancy – but other parts are great. My husband couldn’t stand Dustin, but he’s my favourite character because he’s so emotionally perceptive.